Carcinogens Should Never Be Regarded as Safe: Dr. Harlan Sparer discusses the FDA and the concept of GRAS or generally regarded as safe.
Sep 30, 2015 07:41PM
● By Dr. Harlan Sparer
In the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower was president and Congress passed the Delaney Amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938. Simply stated, if a substance is a carcinogen, it was not permitted in our food, drugs or cosmetics. This turned out to be good for us, but bad for business.
The Delaney Amendment was slowly eroded during the 60s and 70s by several means. There was a part of this law that established the concept of GRAS (generally regarded as safe). This originally meant that industry could have a substance accepted as GRAS and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would then check on it and confirm the claim. Gradually, industry figured out how to improve their standing by finding loopholes in the system.
Pesticides were the first carcinogen to fall by the wayside, readmitted to our food supply in 1959. Many industry employees took jobs in the FDA and vice-versa, culminating in the presidential appointment of attorney Michael Taylor as the country’s first “food czar”.
In 1986, he presented what has become the dominant industry argument against the diminished Delaney Amendment. His de minimis argument stated that a toxic substance is essentially harmless in a tiny enough dose, which was to be determined by scientists that critics believe have a bias against regulation. Over the course of the next 30 years, standards were further eroded by increasing the permissible threshold of what is considered toxic.
Cancer rates have radically increased since the effective nullification of the Delaney Amendment, so citizens need to take action to protect themselves from the carcinogens in our food and our environment. One effective method is to monitor and evaluate everything we put in our bodies. We must wrest stewardship away from the businesses whose motivation is profit, which often results in harm inflicted on us, our loved ones and our planet.